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24/7’s second episode shows us Bruce Boudreau might actually have a handle on things

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The second episode of HBO’s 24/7 goes to show us that judging teams based on one episode is akin to judging a book by its cover. Caps coach Bruce Boudreau faced a lot of criticism after the first episode and it appeared that all of those questions raised about his preparedness as a coach and his ability to hold the attention of his team in the room were answered emphatically.

Many talked about how Boudreau didn’t appear to have meticulous notes on the whiteboards for the Caps before games making it seem like he was an ill-prepared madman. In Wednesday’s episode we see more of Boudreau the coach with game plans written out with care and seeing him work player-to-player on everything from fighting to injuries to playing psychologist as much as he is a coach. For a team mired in a losing streak doing that is just as important as laying out the x’s and o’s.

In our three things to look out for before the airing of tonight’s episode we found out that the layout of tonight’s episode was indeed easy to pick out but seeing how it was laid out in front of us makes it all more fun. Capping off the episode with Washington beating Ottawa and ending their losing streak to get off their eight game schneid and celebrating to DJ Pauly D’s “Beat Dat Beat” proves that winning can cure everything.

There was a moment that raised eyebrows though and, again, it’s the Caps doing the work. Caps GM George McPhee commented on the negative publicity surrounding the team in their losing streak and said that if those commenting knew anything about hockey they’d be working in it. I get that those on the inside know how things work better when it comes to running a hockey team, but if you’re expecting the local sports talk shows to clam up while the team plays bad hockey, you’re crazy.

Those in the media, whether it’s blogs, newspapers, or talk radio, it’s our job to comment on what we see out on the ice and if what we see stinks, you’d better believe it’s going to be told that way. For McPhee to expect to either be ignored (perhaps in favor of the local NFL failures) or not talked about at all is just crazy and unrealistic.

When you win, you get praised and when you lose you are opened up to criticism, it’s that simple and it’s how the business works. If the Caps are able to keep winning and put that losing streak behind them for good, I’m sure he’ll be quite happy hearing the praise rather than the negative comments. We may not be hockey insiders in the media, but we know a struggling team when we see it.

Not everything McPhee showed in this episode was like this though. McPhee showed that he’s clearly the man in charge of the Capitals and how things are run in D.C. and that whatever happens there is by his design one way or another. Seeing him react to the team falling behind and then coming back against Boston before eventually losing their eighth game in a row is like something out of a feature film. Leave no doubt in your mind that George McPhee is the man running the Capitals.

As for the more fun and light-hearted and enlightening stuff to take away from episode two,there’s a few things:

  • Sidney Crosby’s superstitions are both fascinating and gross. From taping his sticks at a certain time and having a peanut butter and jelly sandwich before a game to seeing that Sid wears the same athletic supporter he has since he was 16 years-old provides some insight as to how quirky even the biggest star of the game is.
  • Alex Ovechkin still living with his parents in Washington provides a nice down home look at the other biggest superstar in the league. Seeing Alex’s mother prepare his dinner for him before hitting the road while seeing him pack lightly only bringing his PS3 reminds you that these guys are still just kids.
  • Penguins agitator Matt Cooke pranking his old friend and Internet superstar Paul Bissonette of the Coyotes by snipping his skate laces and stuffing Dubble Bubble bubble gum into the fingers of his gloves shows that even an on-ice villain can make us laugh.
  • The speech Caps forward Mike Knuble gave after the first period of their game against Boston where the Caps were already down 3-0 might have been the one locker room speech they needed the most to wake them up. He’s not the assistant captain for nothing.
  • Caps fighter Matt Hendricks’ eye after getting punched up by Rangers agitator Sean Avery is one of the grossest and manliest things you’ll ever see on TV.
  • Mike Green has an interesting mode of transportation.
  • Seriously, the Caps celebrate victories to this song and have a locker room Jersey Shore fist pump dance-off. My mind is blown.

Next week’s third episode figures to be the crowning glory of the four episode set as the teams will be preparing to face each other in their game that happens on Thursday night the 23rd. Having the NHL schedule makers set this up so nicely to amp up the drama will make next week’s episode even more of a must-watch.

Red Wings approach training camp with an expensive goalie situation

Detroit Red Wings' Petr Mrazek (34) replaces goalie Jimmy Howard (35) during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2015, in Winnipeg, Manitoba. (Trevor Hagan/The Canadian Press via AP)
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This post is part of Detroit Red Wings day at PHT…

There was a stretch in January when Petr Mrazek wasn’t unbeatable, but it may have felt that way. He allowed only 12 goals during a nine-game stretch. Subsequently, he posted a 7-1-1 record that month.

Then, there was a stretch in February and into March when he gave up 24 goals in eight appearances, including a trio of five-spots and that got people talking. His coach, Jeff Blashill, said at the time that such a run in January — citing a .956 save percentage — simply wasn’t sustainable and that Mrazek’s struggles a short time later were part of the ebb and flow of a season.

When the playoffs began, Jimmy Howard started the first-round series versus Tampa Bay but gave up seven goals in two games, before giving way to Mrazek for the final three games.

Over the summer, the Red Wings and Mrazek were able to come to an agreement on a two-year, $8 million deal just before the two sides were to have a scheduled arbitration hearing.

That is a large raise from the $737,500 average annual value Mrazek was making on his entry-level contract. The Red Wings now have more than $9 million dedicated to both Mrazek and Howard in the salary cap.

Howard, 32, is signed for three more years at $5.29 million. He posted a 14-14-5 record, with a .906 save percentage, which is well below his career average of .915.

General manager Ken Holland — he’s under pressure — has offered conflicting takes on Howard’s future prospects in Detroit, saying he had thought about trading the veteran goalie but then he made the case to keep Howard almost as insurance in goal, as Detroit continues to develop Mrazek as the true No. 1.

“Some teams have goalies that make $8 million, $7 million,” Holland told the Detroit Free Press. “We’re on the higher end in terms of the money we’ve got in net, but we see goaltending as a strength for us.”

Blashill told MLive.com during the winter that he went into last season with a three-week plan to alternate between Howard and Mrazek, to see which of those two goalies could separate themselves and take charge of that No. 1 position.

The plan this time around will be one to keep an eye on when the season begins. It’s shaping up right now to be an expensive one.

Coyotes hire skating guru Dawn Braid, believed to be first full-time female coach in NHL history

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GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) The Arizona Coyotes have hired Dawn Braid as skating coach and say she is believed to be the first full-time female coach in NHL history.

Braid has a long association with the NHL.

She worked part-time for the Coyotes last year and has served as a skating consultant with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Anaheim Ducks, Buffalo Sabres and Calgary Flames.

Braid also spent seven years with the Athletes Training Center as director of skating development. Among the skaters she worked with while there is New York Islanders center John Tavares.

From NHL.com:

“Dawn has wanted to put me in to make myself a more powerful and efficient skater,” Tavares told NHL.com in 2012. “Dawn always says, ‘If you didn’t train properly and do the certain things you need to do, you’re not going to be strong enough to do the things I want you to do.'”

Braid’s hiring continues the trend of full-time female coaches in men’s pro sports; she follows Becky Hammon of the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs (2014) and Kathryn Smith of the NFL’s Buffalo Bills (2016) as the first full-time women’s coach in their respective leagues.

It’s all about experience for Red Wings sophomore bench boss Blashill

Detroit Red Wing training camp, day one
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This post is part of Detroit Red Wings day at PHT…

Let’s be honest: It’s probably not easy to replace a coach of Mike Babcock’s repute.

More than a year ago, Babcock went to the rebuilding Toronto Maple Leafs and is being paid a lot of money — an estimated $50 million over eight years — to coach in that market. Meanwhile, back in Detroit and with Babcock out of the picture, the Red Wings turned to Jeff Blashill as their new bench boss.

True, Blashill had spent time as a head coach in the USHL, college ranks and with the Grand Rapids Griffins of the AHL. But he had no experience as an NHL head coach prior to the 2015-16 season and just one season as an NHL assistant when he was part of Babcock’s staff in 2011-12.

After a 41-30-11 regular season record and another playoff appearance, the 25th straight in Detroit, the Red Wings were bounced in the first round. One of the priorities for general manager Ken Holland this offseason was to insulate Blashill by bringing in more experienced assistants.

The Red Wings hired John Torchetti, previously the interim head coach in Minnesota, and long-time Boston assistant Doug Houda. Those moves were part of a larger coaching shake-up within the organization, as Tony Granato left for a head coaching job at Wisconsin, goalie coach Jim Bedard was not brought back and assistant Pat Ferschweiler, who ran the team’s 13th-ranked power play last season, was reassigned.

Blashill told MLive.com that “player development” will be a large part of Ferschweiler’s role going forward.

“I think it’ll be a real benefit,” Blashill told the Detroit Free Press of the additions to the Red Wings staff. “Lots of years behind NHL benches. I’ve only had two years on an NHL bench. That’s a scenario where I can learn from their past experiences.”

It’s all about experience.

Two years ago, Blashill was touted by Holland as an “NHL coach in the making.” A month later, he was given a three-year contract extension to coach the Griffins, so clearly they thought highly of Blashill by keeping him as opposed to potentially losing him to another NHL club. A year later, he was tapped on to replace Mike Babcock.

In this case, patience may be required, too. That may be easier said than done from a fan’s perspective because as impressive as Detroit’s current run of consecutive playoff appearances is, they haven’t made it out of the first round in their last three tries.

“I think he’s a tremendous coach and I think he’s going to be in the League a long time. He’s had a lot of success at every level he’s been at except the NHL,” Holland told NHL.com.

“He did guide us to a playoff spot in a League when it’s hard to qualify for the playoffs, but I also think as you looked at our team last year, there were lots of decisions to be made and I think the experiences of last year are going to be important for Jeff.”

If the Red Wings place such a great deal of value on Blashill gaining experience, and leaning on the experience of veteran coaches beside him, it would seem then that they are willing to invest a substantial amount of time in him as he continues to grow and establish himself as an NHL coach.

But with such experienced assistant coaches having joined his staff this offseason, it makes you wonder about what could happen if the Red Wings struggle significantly or fail to make the playoffs.

“I think there’s always pressure in this job and there always will be and I welcomed that when I took the job,” Blashill told MLive.com this summer.

“But really, I don’t spend lots of time worrying about what could happen bad. I spend all my time worrying about how we’re going to do things to make sure we win.”

Bouwmeester named to Canada’s World Cup team, replacing the injured Duncan Keith

KANATA, ON - AUGUST 25:  Jay Bouwmeester #3 of Team Canada skates against Team USA during their exhibition game in the World Cup of Hockey on August 25, 2004 at the Corel Centre in Kanata, Canada.  (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/WCOH via Getty Images)
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St. Louis Blues veteran defenseman Jay Bouwmeester has been named to Canada’s 23-man roster for the upcoming World Cup of Hockey.

He will replace Chicago Blackhawks blue liner Duncan Keith, who is rehabbing a right knee injury.

“As Duncan continues offseason rehabilitation on the right knee injury that he sustained last season, we understand his decision not to participate in next month’s World Cup of Hockey,” Blackhawks team physician, Dr. Michael Terry, said in a statement.

“We believe it is in his best interests to focus on getting stronger and not risk further injury.”

Bouwmeester, a left-handed shot just as Keith is, which maintains the left-right philosophy for defensive pairings, joins his Blues teammate Alex Pietrangelo on the Canadian roster.

The two not only play together in St. Louis, but they were matched together on the blue line for Canada when it won gold at the 2014 Olympics.

The decision is, well, an interesting one and open to plenty of debate, as the Team Canada brass opted to take Bouwmeester over other Canadian blue liners — right-handed shots P.K. Subban and Kris Letang among the names — with far more offensive production from the back end.